HILLSBORO — A man who fooled his neighbors into trusting him with their children pleaded guilty Thursday to molesting four of them.
Family members of his victims, who ranged in age from 7 to 16, wept as Troy Niemann received three 15-year sentences for charges involving three victims, and two seven-year sentences in connection with one victim.
He will serve the sentences concurrently, making him eligible for parole in 12 1/2 years.
After that time, the Attorney General's office could seek to designate him as a sexual predator and keep him in prison for life.
Family members of his victims said they were unhappy with the sentence.
But Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Catherine Crowley said the possibility of spending his life in prison will be hanging over Niemann's head.
"Some may think it's light, but it's not," she said. "It's fraught with a whole lot of danger at the end."
Someone may have retaliated in October when Niemann's house was destroyed by fire.
Investigators ruled it an arson, said Sgt. Gary Higginbotham, of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.
"Given the charges against Mr. Niemann, we have many persons of interest," he said. "There is motive involved."
Niemann has been in jail since his arrest in July. Since then, police also had visited his house several times on vandalism reports.
Niemann lured kids to his home in a gated community south of De Soto to watch movies on his big screen TV or go for rides on his boat, according to court records.
Several of his victims also attended Thursday's hearing.
"Nothing will ever be adequate," said one of the victim's relatives, who did not want to be identified. ..more.. by Christine Byers, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH